Pop-art in jewelry - copyright?

Hi all

I have seen some really wonderful art jewelry with montages created
from clipped photos, headlines, ads, writing, labels, etc. I wondered
if anyone knows about the legalities of clipping photos and ads or
even using old postcards? I have a marvelous old Southwestern
postcard with no copyright or photo credit, and I’d like to
incorporate it into a special piece of jewelry I’ve been asked to
create for a contemporary museum of art benefit. Can I do that (I’d
scan it and use the reproduction in a montage…)


Roseann Hanson
Desert Rose Design Studio
Tucson, Arizona
520-591-0508 voice/message
866-421-1813 toll-free fax

Hi Rose,

You’ll probably get answers all over the board, so first of all, do
what you’re comfortable doing.

Normally, if you’re incorporating printed material, it’s easier to
get away with using writing and headlines because normally you’re
going to use only a tiny part or change the feel entirely so that
it’s not recognizable from a particular source. But, you can run into
trouble if you take, say, an entire passage from a popular book
without attributing it. If you attribute, get permission - in
writing. Forget using a “branded name” or title unless you’re doing a
humor or parody piece.

I can say newspapers/mags aren’t going to care if you cut out
headlines or letters to rearrange in your art.

Photos, textiles are another story. It’s a gray area. Again, do what
you’re comfortable doing. A true montage, where no one item is
recognizable from a particular source probably won’t get you in

For every guideline you get quoted, everyone could come up with a
"what about …" exception. How did Andy Worhol get away with the soup
can prints using a trademarked product label and name? How can
artists use bottle caps in bracelets without paying a royalty to
Coke, for instance?

It’s a big fizzy can of noodles. If your art gets hugely noticed,
some companies might choose to come after you. It can happen, but
rarely. So relax, go with what you feel is OK. I can add that if you
further manipulate the image, say scan it in and then alter it so
that it’s got your vision — the hand of the artist — you’re very
safe from a lawsuit.

Congrats on donating your work for such a good cause. You should be
applauded for that!


If my understanding is correct, you have the right to do just about
anything you want with that postcard, including making it part of
your jewelry montage, or smoke it if you wish. But there is one
thing that you do not have the legal right to do with it and that
is- copy or reproduce it.

Ed in Kokomo

In last months Craft Report there is a story of an artist who does
use bottle caps in her work and did receive a cease and desist order
from Coke! Out of curiosity, I contacted her via email. She said the
letter stated that “such use may mislead the public into believing
that some association exists between The Coca-Cola Company and the
third party providing such materials, when in fact there is not.” As
she said “postconsumer waste or not, they do own the logo.” She has
spoken to other manufacturers who are quite delighted that she’s
using their bottle caps in her work.

When a single piece of jewelry is being created (not integrated into
a production line piece) and the image is original and not
mechanically reproduced you are most likely not inviting trouble.

Good luck,
Pam Farren